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August 26, 1999
Jaffna Memories Claim Depressed Man, Son
Shanta Kumar in Toronto
Three days after a despondent father threw himself in front of a subway train, holding his 3-year-old son, the community, social workers and doctors here wonder what could have saved the two lives.
"He took his own life," said a family member who sought anonymity. "That was terrible but did he have to murder his son?" Like other relatives, the family member too wondered what he or anyone else could have done to save Jeyabalan Balasingam and his son Sajanthan.
"Two lives are gone but there are two lives here which are damaged," he said, referring to the wife and infant daughter of the dead man.
Balasingam, who was battling memories of the civil war in his native Jaffna, had sought medical treatment for his mental illness in the past three years, doctors said. Though he had not been taking the medication regularly since January, he still made an effort to see his therapist and psychiatrist from time to time.
"In January, he started to stop his medications and he wasn't regular in coming to us either,'' Dr Sooria Balan told reporters who called him at Scarborough General Hospital. Dr Balan, who is also a Tamilian, said his former patient never mentioned to him or the family about his intention to kill himself.
And, two months ago Balasingam had resumed taking his medications, Dr Balan said.
"But any additional stress can snap someone like him off reality," he said, adding that Balasingam must have thought there's no point in living for him and the son.
The 40-year-old man left his home on Sunday evening with Sajanthan, after telling wife Uma that he was meeting a friend. She stayed back with her two-week-old baby daughter who was to be named this week.
Horrified eye-witnesses recalled how the father held his son close to his chest jumped at the oncoming train.
Relatives said Balasingam seemed to have no problems with his wife. And though the family lived poorly, there were no doubts. He had been sacked from a job a few months ago but was rehired by the factory six weeks ago.
His 35-year-old wife was planning to start classes in computer training at the end of the year, relatives said. Detective Mark Mendleson, who addressed a press conference on Tuesday, said the couple had no marital problems.
At a news conference yesterday afternoon, Mendleson also said Balasingam's depression worsened since the birth of the couple's daughter. But family members and friends said Balasingam seemed to have been joyous at the birth of a daughter.
"Who could have suspected that he was unhappy deep inside," said a cousin who refused to believe that a daughter's birth would have triggered the tragedy.
Balasingam, a Canadian citizen, had been in the country since 1988. He went to Jaffna a few years ago for an arranged marriage.
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